Maria Fjodorovna Barjatinskaja, 1819-1825
Marble. 181 cm
Inventory number: A171
The face is the most important thing in this sculpture of the Russian princess. While her body is hidden by heavy folds of drapery held together by her left hand, she points to the mysterious expression of her face with her free hand. It is thus here we should look for information about her personality – her spirit and understanding. We can see in the sculpture why she was spoken of as one of the most beautiful women of her time.
At the same time something more universal is in play here. The princess is represented as a Classical beauty. Qualities such as grace and modesty are combined with clothing, coiffure and open sandals inspired by antiquity. The princess shows the female ideal of the age, as well as the models from antiquity that inspired it. The past, physiognomy and ideals are united in one portrait.
The Russian Princess Maria Barjatinskaja (1793-1858) came to Rome in 1818 with her husband. On his wish she was modelled by Thorvaldsen. The marble sculpture was created in 1821-25 but was never sent off. After the death of the Princess her family demanded to have the statue handed over, but instead accepted a copy made by Thorvaldsen’s most important Danish apprentice, the sculptor H. W. Bissen. Today the sculpture is in the Pusjkin Museum in Moscow. The statue is one of the best examples of Thorvaldsen’s special ability to portray a figure in calm thoughtfulness. An introverted character that seems to ignore everything outside the sculpture itself and simultaneously gives the impression of great dignity, personal balance and knowledge about the world in the one portrayed.